The small group leader uses their responses to launch into a discussion about the Communion Rite.

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1 The Communion Rite The small group leader leads participants in a small group discussion. Break into small groups (three or four). Remind participants to make time for all in the group to respond to the questions. When considering the spiritual life how would you describe your deepest hunger? What would it take to fill that hunger? The small group leader uses their responses to launch into a discussion about the Communion Rite. Refer to articles and The culmination of the Eucharistic celebration is the Communion Rite in which the people of God process to the Lord s Table to feast on the presence of Christ in the bread, wine, community, and presider priest. The Church teaches that the presence of Christ is manifest in four ways in the Eucharistic liturgy (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #7). The four ways are: Christ manifest in the gathered community. The Church teaches that the gathered community is like a sacrament, a sign and symbol of Christ s presence. Christ is present in his body, the gathered community. Christ manifest in the person of his minister the priest. Christ is also present in the person of the priest. As Christ s representative, the priest is a sign of Christ s presence in our midst. Christ manifest in the proclamation of the Word. Christ is manifested and present to us when the word is proclaimed in the liturgy, Catholic Faith, Life & Creed Come to the Table Handout on the Communion Rite Page 1

2 in the proclamation of sacred Scripture. The Lectionary for Mass reminds us that Christ is present in his word. Christ speaks to us when the word is proclaimed (Lectionary for Mass #4). Christ manifested in the species of bread and wine. Christ is ultimately present in the sacred species of bread and wine. When we participate in the Eucharist, we consume Christ and Christ consumes us. His blood runs through our veins. The small group leader invites participants to respond to the following questions in the wider group. Have you ever had the awareness or experience of God s presence when you were gathered with the rest of the community at Mass or when the word was proclaimed? Please describe and share your experience. What does it mean for our lives that Christ is manifest to us? What should our response be? The small group leader invites participants to respond to the following questions in dyads, and then share insights in the wider group. Provide sufficient time for this reflection in the wider group. Consider the following statement: Participation in the Eucharist is the most intimate action in which Catholics engage. What does that mean to you? What does it mean that we consume Christ and Christ consumes us? What are the implications for your life? Theology of the Communion Rite Eating and drinking the Lord s body and blood in the paschal meal is the culmination of the Eucharist. We call it a paschal meal because Jesus is the new and ultimate Passover lamb who was sacrificed for the sake of the world. We recall the bondage of the People of Israel; we remember that God sent Moses to set them free. We remember that God commanded Pharaoh to let his people go. Pharaoh refused. God sent multiple signs to convince Pharaoh. Still Pharaoh refused. Finally, Moses commanded the Israelites to slaughter a lamb and put the blood on their doorposts. The last and ultimate sign for Pharaoh was the death of all first-born males, the death of his first-born son. The only first-born sons saved that night were those who lived in houses marked with the sign of blood. Finally, Pharaoh let them go. Not, however, without a change of mind, a hot pursuit after them into the desert and subsequently into the Red Sea where he and his cohort were swallowed by that same sea. And so God delivered his people Israel. Catholic Faith, Life & Creed Come to the Table Handout on the Communion Rite Page 2

3 This foundational story of the Jewish people, the Exodus, is integral to our understanding of Eucharist. Jesus is the new Moses, the new Deliverer of God s people. The annual Passover meal of remembrance gives way to this ultimate Supper of remembrance. The deliverance of the Israelites is given new meaning once and for all by the deliverance brought about by the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb who shed his Blood for the sins of the world (CCC, 1362 & 1364). Every Eucharistic liturgy is a re-presentation of this once-and-for-all saving event. Eucharist saves us and gives us Christ s own life. Real Presence Christ is truly present in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine. Bread When we eat the Eucharistic bread, through eyes of faith, we feast on Christ s own body. We eat his body, broken for the sins of the world. As St. Augustine reminded us: We become what we receive. We become Christ s body. Wine When we drink the Eucharistic wine, we feast on Christ s blood, his life force, the ultimate sign of the Covenant he forged with the human race. Christ s blood runs through our veins; his life force becomes ours. Participation in the cup is the fullest sign of the Covenant; he shed his blood for us. Thus, drinking from the cup is integral to the experience of communion. Bread and Wine Important: Christ s presence is complete and whole in each form. In other words, when a person receives only the Eucharistic bread, Christ is present body, soul, and divinity. The fullness of his body and blood is present in the bread alone. When one receives only from the Eucharistic cup, Christ is similarly present body, soul, and divinity, complete and whole in the Eucharistic wine. The fullness of his body and blood is present in the wine alone. Eucharist, the Eschatological, Heavenly Banquet When the faithful process to the Lord s Table, they do so in the company of the communion of saints, the saints on earth and the saints in heaven. Every Eucharistic feast is a participation in the banquet that is taking place in heaven. Heaven is wedded to earth in this feast, and we are given access to eternal life and salvation. Holy Communion strengthens our union in Christ; it is food for the soul. Viaticum: Holy Communion is likewise food for our final journey. The sacrament Catholic Faith, Life & Creed Come to the Table Handout on the Communion Rite Page 3

4 of the dying is called viaticum (food on the way), heavenly food. Just as we were fed in our earthly bodies by our daily bread, so too are we fed for our last journey by the Bread of Life. Communion Rite A series of smaller rites prepare for the sharing of Communion. The theme of these rites is love, reconciliation, and unity. Gathered around the Lord s Table, God s people, though many, become one Body of Christ, symbolized by the sign of bread and wine. The four rites that make up the Communion Rite: 1. The Lord s Prayer 2. Sign of peace 3. Breaking of the bread 4. Communion The Lord s Prayer The Lord s Prayer is spiritual preparation for Communion. When we pray the Lord s Prayer, we call God our Father, we pray for daily food and for spiritual food. We pray for forgiveness and to be delivered from all temptation, knowing that indeed we have been forgiven by the sacrifice that has been re-presented in our midst. This cleansing prayer is an appropriate preparation for Communion. Sign of Peace The Sign of Peace repeats the theme of forgiveness in the Lord s Prayer. In antiquity, it was referred to as a seal placed on prayer. The biblical imperative of peace hearkens back to the harmony God intended for the world at the creation of the world, the shalom of God, a peace in which all creation is in harmony with the Creator. Human beings are in harmony with God, with one another and with the created order. Such peace can only come from God. Such peace was promised by Christ and is realized when two or more are gathered in his name. Such is the peace offered at every Eucharistic liturgy. It is the peace won for us by the sacrifice of Christ, given to us in his risen presence. It is Christ s own peace we offer one another in the sign of peace. When we exchange the sign of peace before Communion, we acknowledge the presence of Christ that we share in Communion to be present in the person to whom we extend peace. Breaking of Bread The Breaking of the Bread is a central part of the Eucharistic liturgy. Catholic Faith, Life & Creed Come to the Table Handout on the Communion Rite Page 4

5 The early Church called the Eucharistic gathering Breaking of the Bread. It was named after this common action of Christ in the gospels. He broke bread with the multitudes, with his friends at the Last Supper and with his disciples after his resurrection. Christ s Body is broken before us and his blood continues to be poured out for the sins of the world. We too become similarly broken and our lives poured out like a libation. We punctuate the Breaking of the Bread with our song of lament, Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. We remember Christ s broken body. We remember that he shed his blood so that sins may be forgiven. Jesus disciples recognize him in the breaking of the bread at Emmaus. We too recognize him. Love made manifest in the humiliation of the cross is made present on the banquet table spread before us. When we break the bread together, we ask for the grace to give our lives so others might live, to participate in the ongoing redemption won by Christ for the salvation of the world. The breaking of the bread helps us remember that we too are called to live and die for others. In the breaking of the bread, we remember Christ s passion and death for us and for our sins. Thus, we can say with firm conviction that Eucharist forgives sins. It is in the taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing the body and blood of Christ that we too are taken, blessed, broken, and shared. This significant element in the Eucharistic liturgy is an invitation to bring the joys and sorrows of life and join them to the sacrifice made present before us. Is there pain and sorrow in your life? Offer it to Christ on the altar. Are your relationships difficult and causing you grief? Offer them to Christ for the sake of others who similarly suffer. Is there illness in your family? Offer the struggle for the sake of others who are ill and join Christ in shedding his blood for them. Is there more month left at the end of your money? Offer it for the poor who starve and who would give thanks for the smallest morsel of bread. Allow your broken body to be broken for others. Recall the brokenness of the world as you break Christ s body before the hungry assembly. Each of us is broken along with Christ in this table of sacrifice. And so we ready ourselves to become what we have received. Lord s Prayer: What is the purpose of praying the Lord s Prayer in preparation for Communion? What does it express? Sign of Peace: What is the purpose of the sign of peace and why is it a preparation for Communion? Breaking of Bread: What is the significance of the breaking of bread? What is expressed? How do these prayers and gestures change you? What action are you led to take as a result of praying them over and over again throughout your life? Catholic Faith, Life & Creed Come to the Table Handout on the Communion Rite Page 5

6 Communion Rite We are faithful to Jesus command that we take and eat and take and drink. We process to the altar table and we share in the sacrifice that has been represented for us in this celebration. St. Augustine reminded us that when we receive Holy Communion, we become what we have received. We become Christ s body and blood. Christ has no body now but ours, proclaims St. Theresa. We literally take Christ to the world. Like Christ, we go out and become food and nourishment for others. We shed our blood for others, just as Christ shed his blood for us. Drinking Jesus blood is a sign of sharing the new covenant; it is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet; it is a sign of our participation in the suffering of Christ. Thus, when both species are offered it is most important that we avail ourselves of so great a treasure. The procession to the table is a sign of the humble poor waiting to be fed and a sign of the journey we all must make, the journey through the kingdom now and to the kingdom yet to come. The faithful express their unity in Christ as they sing the Communion song. Nourished by this feast, we go forth to feed others, recognizing that we have just shared in the eternal banquet and fully participated in the paschal mystery of Christ. Dismissal & Sending Forth The final part of the Mass is called the dismissal rite. The Catechism tells us that the Eucharist commits us to the poor (1397). Thus, in the dismissal rite we are sent out to be bread for the world. We are people on a mission. We are sent forth to feed the starving world -to bring about the reign of God, to share the good news, to become Eucharist. We are fed, so people can feed off of us, so we can come back again to be fed again. We go forth transformed as a Eucharistic people. What does it mean to be a Eucharistic people? It means that we are willing to be taken, blessed, broken, and shared with and for the world. If you instill a love of Eucharist in your families, you have given them the greatest gift you could give them. No matter what life hands them, they will always find meaning in the Bread of Life that strengthens and sustains us Christ present to us midst his absence. What do you believe you are being sent to offer to the world as Mass ends? If we re people on a mission, what exactly is that mission? Boil it down to your everyday life. Catholic Faith, Life & Creed Come to the Table Handout on the Communion Rite Page 6

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